what writing means to me
March 1, 2009 1 Comment
One, I noticed that a lot of people who reserve their hobbies for post-retirement never do get started (some die, some keep postponing retirement, some just run out of steam having spent too many years doing stuff that atrophied their energy and creativity and sheer ability to learn and experiment). Two, I needed to take my current reality into account to create a new career/ direction that I could pursue while fulfilling my personal responsibilities (read, caregiving). Three, I had worked and saved enough moolah to invest in myself and move to something new in a guilt-free way. Four, I felt I had a lot of stories inside me, and wanted to give them life.
So, writing it was.
In the last few years, I have swung back and forth pretty often, mainly on the self-doubt angle. I believe most writers go through such phases, and also that most give up for this reason. Or they continue in an half-hearted way, primed for failure. The knowledge that others suffer similarly has not helped, though, for how is one to know whether the doubt is based on fact and rational, or just a form of procrastination? It is said, a writer is one who wishes to have written, not necessarily one who wants to write. And for anyone who faces self-doubt, or a writer’s block, this rings true.
There are enough times in the past few years when I have felt downright stupid for having tried writing or told people I plan to do so. I have little to show in tangible terms, okay, a few publications, prizes, but not enough of a body of successes to sit back and smile about. Often, I looked at pages of drivel that I had written out assuming I was churning out gems. I searched in my mind for fresh ideas and found thoughts packed with cliches. I poised my fingers on the keyboard and found I knew no words to convey any emotion or scene. Inadequacy abounded. I wondered why I even thought I could do anything.
I wondered, why write?
(And then I wondered, why not just give up?)
What helps me persist is the fact that I love reading. When I encounter a story that leaves me gasping, I say, wow, maybe some day I will write a story that makes a difference to someone. That someone could be me 🙂 Because writing is also self-discovery. My characters are more diffident on the days I feel powerless. My characters observe less on days I observe less. On the flip side, on days I feel courageous enough to explore an idea, or an emotion, I find it (almost) reflect in my writing. I do not know the craft well enough to do justify to my ideas, but definitely if I don’t have ideas worth expressing that really shows 🙂
Here are three stories I read last week.
Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky (Ken Scholes, Clarkesworld) , an alternate history story, had me hooked from the resonance it struck in paragraph one. A speculative interpretation of known facts in Sonny Liston Takes the Fall (Elizabeth Bear) is another story that left me satisfied for reasons I cannot grasp yet. And a small SF piece in Nature What’s Expected of Us (Ted Chiang)(PDF file) kept me in a re-read mode for a while.
These three stories are examples (from amongst hundreds, thousands) of stories that answer my question, why do people write. People write because such stories are worth writing, worth reading.
And such stories power me to keep at my craft, at my inner courage to reach for stories I can work on.
Now, off to the tussle with words.
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